Sports

Coach: 'i'm just being me'

After a recent appearance on Joe B. Hall's radio show, new Kentucky coach John Calipari accompanied his predecessor to lunch. This caused quite a stir as Coach Cal not only palled around with Hall's regular "Lunch Bunch" but also greeted other patrons.

Before he departed, Calipari said goodbye not only to the Lunch Bunch but also walked over to others in a room full of newfound friends.

Suffice to say, Calipari is comfortable in the spotlight.

Good thing, given what the late Al McGuire said best: Being Kentucky coach is like being Wilt Chamberlain. You can never hide.

Calipari is not looking to hide.

"I'm going to be who I am," he said last week. That might mean going to McDonald's for a hamburger or having lunch at Panera Bread Company, he said. "I'm not going to change who I am.

"The option is you're 2-28, and they're not coming near you. I like the option of having to sign a few autographs and being bothered at the table occasionally."

Of course, Calipari is no stranger to the spotlight. In the 1990s, he made a mighty splash in college basketball by transforming UMass from nonentity to Final Four participant. Then, this decade, he returned a dormant Memphis program to national prominence.

Not all applauded in the cutthroat, who-needs-another-competitor world of college basketball.

"I'm a lightning rod," he said. "Part of it is because of not being under Dean Smith or Bobby Knight. And it's like, 'He took scraps and beat us. Well, there's no way.'"

Although his honeymoon as UK coach is in full flower, Calipari expects to have his critics. It should be noted that no coach can measure up fully to the program's magnificence. Even Adolph Rupp, who made the program magnificent, heard grumbles about the game passing him by late in his 42-year run.

"What you see is what you get," Calipari said. "... Some people like that and some don't like that." They say, "'He's brash.'

"No, I'm just being me.

"There will be some who don't like me. I'm a northern Italian. Or 'he talks too much.'"

But, Calipari added, " Everyone will love my wife."

Draft notices

UK big man Patrick Patterson, guard Jodie Meeks and other college underclassmen who test the NBA waters this year will have about six weeks to assess and, if necessary, improve their draft status.

Players have until next Sunday to enter their names in the NBA Draft.

Stu Jackson, executive vice president of basketball operations for the NBA, said the formal evaluation process of interviews and workouts will begin around May 4. Players have until June 15 to withdraw their names from the June 25 draft.

That process changes this year. Instead of five-on-five games at a pre-draft camp, the NBA will have a football-like combine where players will do skill work, be measured (height, weight, vertical leap), participate in interviews and undergo a medical exam.

Because so many players opted out of the pre-draft camp, the five-on-five activity served little purpose.

(By the way, NCAA rules permit NBA teams to pay for workouts as long as the player is enrolled as a full-time student, the evaluation does not last more than 48 hours and no class time is missed.)

Jackson serves as chairman of the NBA's Undergraduate Advisory Committee, a panel of nine "player personnel types" that tries to give prospects an idea of where they might be drafted, he said.

The committee tries to place prospects in one of four general categories: lottery pick, first-rounder, second-rounder and undrafted.

Jackson said the panel can be "pretty close" to 100 percent accurate in its projections. It's rare for a prospect projected, say, in the second round to be a lottery pick. A lottery projection falling to the second round has never happened, he said.

For what it's worth, projections by the NBAdraft.net and DraftExpress.com Web sites have had Meeks as a second-round pick. Those guesses would mean Meeks must use the evaluation process to greatly improve his stock.

"That happens frequently," Jackson said. "That's why we really encourage players who seek an evaluation to seek multiple evaluations."

Perspective

Last week's note about adjunct professor Richard Cheeks' embrace of new UK coach John Calipari stirred a long-distance response from a fan. The fan, Peter C.S. Adams, objected to Cheeks' criticisms of former coach Tubby Smith and support for Billy Gillispie.

"Gillispie shot himself in the foot driving players away by over-working, over-coaching and berating them, and in the end, it was his personality that did him in," Adams wrote in an e-mail.

Adams, who lived in Kentucky through high school, now works for the University of Massachusetts. He suggested that the distance gives him perspective.

"I wish Coach Cal the best," he wrote. "The fans probably don't realize what they've done, but they have hurt the UK program nationally. Outside of Kentucky, UK fans are viewed as yokels and somewhat insane.

"UK itself is viewed as a place where an insane fan base eats its players and coaches."

After granting permission to print his views, Adams wrote, "From 1,000 miles away, it appears UK fans are very insular, and I hope a little national perspective helps."

Remembering Casey

Former UK star Mike Pratt has honored his teammate, the late Mike Casey, by donating $100 toward forming a team named for Casey in the Central Kentucky Heart Walk and Tailgate Party. The event will be held Saturday.

Casey, 60, died of heart disease last week. He and Pratt played for Kentucky in the late 1960s.

"I just thought it'd be something good to do," said Pratt, who noted that Casey's family had asked well wishers to make a charitable donation in lieu of flowers.

A previously scheduled engagement will prevent Pratt from participating in the walk.

Registration for the charity walk will begin at 9 a.m. The walk will start at 10 a.m. The fund-raiser will be held in conjunction with UK's Blue-White football game.

For more information, go to the Web site http://heartwalk.kintera.org/lexingtonky. Then click on the Mike Casey #34 Memorial Team tab in a blue panel of options on the left side of the home page.

Fab Five redux?

Recruiting analysts think Michigan's famed Fab Five class might be the perspective needed for Kentucky's incoming class.

The Cats already have signed a top-10 national prospect in DeMarcus Cousins. UK remains in contention for two others, point guard John Wall and wing Xavier Henry.

If UK adds all three to top-20 prospect Daniel Orton and Kentucky Mr. Basketball Jon Hood, the analysts will think of the Fab Five as a gauge.

"You could make a pretty strong argument it's the best class ever," analyst Jerry Meyer of Rivals.com said regarding UK's potential haul.

Rivals already ranks Kentucky's class as the fifth best (top five: Villanova, Texas, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and UK). The only other Southeastern Conference teams in the top 25 are No. 14 Florida and No. 25 Alabama.

Brick Oettinger of Prep Stars linked UK to the Fab Five. He noted how Michigan's Chris Webber, Juwan Howard and Jalen Rose all had solid NBA careers.

"Who's to say Cousins, Henry, Wall and Orton (won't play in the NBA?)," Oettinger said. "All those guys have pro written all over them."

Carolina intrigue

While rumors about UK basketball swirl like the clouds on Jupiter, John Wall's recruitment might be even more turbulent.

Last week he dashed the speculation of going directly from his Raleigh, N.C., high school to the NBA. But Wall still faces a thicket of innuendo.

For starters, the stellar point guard plans to visit Miami this week. And if North Carolina offers a scholarship, he might make an unofficial visit to UNC.

Kentucky clearly needs a point guard. But North Carolina will too if, as expected, Ty Lawson enters this year's NBA Draft.

There's talk that the only other point guard on the Tar Heels' roster, Larry Drew, might transfer to be closer to his Encino, Calif., home. His girlfriend (rumor has it a daughter of comedian Eddie Murphy), supposedly attended UNC-Greensboro this school year but would also want to go home.

While UNC Coach Roy Williams isn't associated with so-called one-and-done players, Wall would fit perfectly. The Tar Heels have a highly regarded point guard committed from the high school class of 2010, Kendall Marshall of Arlington, Va.

Got that?

Party time

Bill Morgan came by last week to get out the word that he'll be staging the 37th annual Poor Man's Harlan County Derby Eve Party on May 1.

The party, which doubles as a fund-raiser for two charities (Riding For Hope and Boy Scout Troop 1789), will be dedicated this year to the memory of Bill Keightley.

UK football coach Rich Brooks is one of the guests of honor this year.

Morgan is trying to persuade new basketball coach John Calipari to attend. Accompanied by former UK player Preston LeMaster, Morgan brought the doughnut-loving new coach Spalding's last week. He also took Calipari 5 pounds of former All-American Linville Puckett's homemade beer cheese. (Calipari will have to hit the treadmill to survive being UK coach.)

Hall on Wall

Mega point guard prospect John Wall made a big impression when former UK coach Joe B. Hall watched a telecast of the Nike Summit game.

Hall likened Wall to a bigger version of Dwight Anderson, a basketball meteor that blazed across UK's sky 30 years ago.

"The dribble-drive offense was made for this kid," Hall said.

Friends in high places

If John Calipari recruits the kind of talent that he's rubbed shoulders with in his first few weeks on the job, Kentucky will be in good shape.

During a media interview last week, former All-American Sam Bowie stopped by to say hello.

"I need to find one of you," the new UK coach told Bowie.

After Bowie departed, Calipari noted an exchange with another former UK All-American, Kenny Walker.

Calipari greeted him by saying with exaggerated fanfare, "Kenny 'Sky' Walker."

To which, Walker (who will be 45 on Aug. 18) said, "I'm not skying anymore."

Happy birthday

To UK's most famous fan, actress Ashley Judd. She turns 41 today.

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